REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 25, 2001 — Frequent conference-goers know the drill: in the registration material, along with the key chains and T-shirts, is a confusing collection of meeting schedules, delegate information sheets, maps and background reading material. In fact, theres often such a pile of paper that its easier to ignore the whole mess and just head out to the conference, promising yourself to read it all later.
Delegates at the World Economic Forum are using Compaq iPAQ Pocket PCs to connect with relevant conference material and other participants in the first wireless network of this size to be deployed in a real-world environment.
Instead of the usual glut of printed material conference-goers are accustomed to, delegates to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, will find a much more unique and useful surprise in their registration material as they gather for the 2001 Annual Meeting.
Impressed by the functionality of the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC, conference organizers contacted Compaq and Microsoft Corp., requesting that they and their development partners provide a communication solution for the 2001 WEF Annual Meeting that would wirelessly connect delegates to each other, to communication services, and most importantly, to rapidly changing information about the conference itself.
As part of an effort to help delegates manage information about the conference, each of the WEFs 2,200 attendees will receive a customized Compaq iPAQ, a hand-held computing device built on Microsofts Pocket PC platform. The customized iPAQ, which conference organizers call the
Davos Companion,” is loaded with specially designed applications to provide attendees with wireless email messaging, wireless access to event schedules, meeting and delegate information, and other information about this years sessions.
Every two hours, each of the conference participants will receive automatic updates to their Davos Companion through a large and powerful wireless Local Area Network (LAN). The WEF system represents the first time that a wireless network of this size has been deployed in a real-world environment. The Davos LAN operates at speeds of up to 11 megabits and is powered by 15 Compaq Proliant servers, which operate on Microsoft software such as Windows 2000, SQL Server, and Windows NT.
The Davos Companion project is a collaborative effort involving the WEF and their strategic technology partners, Microsoft and Compaq, plus development partners such as AvantGo, Accenture and Winlix Systemhaus.
“The WEF chose to develop the Davos Companion on the Microsoft Pocket PC platform because it gave them the richness, flexibility and functionality to build a totally customized solution in record time,”
says Dilip Mistry, Mobility marketing manager, Microsoft EMEA.
“The Davos Companion is designed to help world leaders get the most out of the WEF Annual Meeting by delivering services and up-to-date information to delegates at any time and anywhere within the conference area.”
Personalized Information Technology at the WEF
Over the course of the last 30 years, the Annual Meeting of the members of the World Economic Forum in Davos has become the worlds foremost global business summit. The meeting brings together top business and political leaders, concerned citizens and the worlds most creative academic thinkers to address key economic, political and social issues.
In previous years, information about events, conference goers and schedules had been delivered through a kiosk solution. Attendees could go to computer kiosks scattered around the conference center and use a PC terminal to look up information. However, getting up-to-date information was limited by the physical proximity to these information centers. For this years Annual Meeting, conference organizers chose to offer a more personalized, mobile information system that features innovative wireless capabilities.
After receiving their Davos Companion, delegates enter a unique security PIN code and the Pocket PC automatically configures itself for each individual attendee, becoming that persons
“personal navigation tool”
for the entire conference.
Using the wireless LAN, the Davos Companion allows delegates to wirelessly send email to other attendees at the event through addresses specially created for the conference. Delegates can also send and receive standard Internet email messages on the device. The Davos Companion also is able to access a listing of all 2,200 conference-goers, with brief profiles that include a picture, biography and contact details. Using the device, delegates can access information about all 350 official sessions and activities taking place during the six-day WEF event. Conference-goers can use the device to build an itinerary and schedule preferred sessions and events, and can access practical information like maps, hotel and transportation information and useful phone numbers. Breaking news from Business Week and The Financial Times will also be broadcast over the LAN network every two hours, and will be automatically stored on the device.
The Future of Wireless Networks at the WEF and Beyond
The Davos Companion represents the first phase of an ongoing deployment of wireless technology at the WEF. Future initiatives include plans to incorporate streaming video capabilities into the Pocket PC solution, as well as offer live language translation services for delegates. Wireless technology will enable interactive surveys, remote question and answer sessions, plus real-time navigation tools help delegates get around Davos and the conference area.
“Microsoft is really glad to be involved in creating a wireless solution for the WEF,”
“and we see this as a long-term partnership.”
The success of the Davos LAN network has implications beyond the corridors of Davos.
“As wireless technology becomes prevalent and bandwidth for enabling these deployments becomes more widely available, both consumers and business users will benefit from the capability to wirelessly access information any time, any place and from any device,”
Challenges of the Davos Deployment
Linking over 2,200 users to each other and to conference services and information, the Davos Companion system is one of the most extensive wireless deployments yet attempted. The development of the massive Davos wireless LAN itself presented the developers of the Davos Companion several unique challenges. The system must be able to handle extreme peaks and troughs of data traffic as users access the network simultaneously at the beginning or end of the day, or as sessions end, and the network also has to be able to provide complete data security to its VIP users.
The Pocket PC devices themselves need to be hearty enough to endure the high altitudes of Davos, and brave rapid changes in temperature from snowy sub-zero environments outdoors to comfortable heat indoors.
“The organizers of the WEF have been impressed with the versatility and reliability of the Pocket PC platform,”
“The platforms functionality is unparalleled, with a full-color display and full support for multimedia applications. The Pocket PC is also designed to enable full and easy integration with Microsofts suite of backend server software. The flexibility and robustness of the underlying infrastructure made the Pocket PC the obvious platform choice for the Davos Companion, a device that required complete customization and personalization.”